NCAA & NJCAA ITF National Athletes of the Week (Feb. 11)
NEW ORLEANS – Strong performances dotted the national landscape this past weekend.
Here are eight individuals who stood out the most and were named National Athletes of the Week on Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
- NCAA Division I Men – Langston Jackson, Kentucky
- NCAA Division I Women – Dani Jones, Colorado
- NCAA Division II Men – Nikolas Curtiss, Tiffin
- NCAA Division II Women – Allie Ludge, Grand Valley State
- NCAA Division III Men – Noah Zastrow, UW-Stout
- NCAA Division III Women – Laura Darcey, UChicago
- NJCAA Men – Wesley Banguria, Colby (Kan.) CC
- NJCAA Women – Gladys Jemaiyo, South Plains (Texas)
Find out more about each of these runners by clicking their names or scrolling below.
National Athlete of the Week is an award selected and presented by the USTFCCCA Communications Staff at the beginning of each week to eight collegiate indoor track & field athletes (male and female for each of the three NCAA divisions as well as the NJCAA).
Nominations are open to the public. Coaches and sports information directors are encouraged to nominate their student-athletes; as are student-athletes, their families and friends, and fans of their programs. Nominated athletes are noticed before those athletes found through searching TFRRS.
The award seeks to highlight not only the very best times, marks and scores on a week-to-week basis, but also performances that were significant on the national landscape and/or the latest in a series of strong outings. Quality of competition, suspenseful finishes and other factors will also play a role in the decision.
Freshman | Sprints
Langston Jackson is off to the races.
The freshman from Lexington, Kentucky, continued his amazing freshman season at the New Mexico Collegiate Classic this past weekend, where he went 6.58 in the 60 twice and ripped off a 20.58 in the 200 to lower his already outstanding school record.
If you’re counting at home, Jackson has five marks of 6.61 or better in the 60 so far this season and three marks of 20.84 or better in the 200.
This is the first time that a male athlete from Kentucky has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season. Four different female athletes from Kentucky had combined for seven National Athlete of the Week honors between 2015 and 2019.
Senior | Distance
Welcome to the record book, Dani Jones!
The senior from Phoenix, Arizona, clocked the sixth fastest mile in collegiate history this past weekend when she went 4:27.88 to finish seventh in the Wanamaker Women’s Mile at the 113th NYRR Millrose Games. Not only that, but she bettered the previous all-time collegiate best in the event at the prestigious meet of 4:28.31, originally set by Vicki Huber of Villanova back in 1988.
Jones was in a race that saw four national records fall, including the American record to former New Hampshire standout Elinor Perrier, who beat Jones for the mile crown at the 2018 NCAA Division I Indoor Championships.
This is the first time that an athlete from Colorado has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season. It also marks the first time since 2017 that a female athlete from the MPSF has earned the honor.
Sophomore | Throws
Nikolas Curtiss now ranks among the all-time bests in NCAA Division II.
The sophomore from Lancaster, Ohio, won the shot put at the Dragon Grand Prix with a heave of 19.40m (63-7¾). His mark makes him the tenth-best performer in NCAA DII history and ranks him No. 18 among all collegians in the event in 2020.
He also moved ahead of teammate Jabari Bennett for the national lead, which gave the Dragons the top-2 performers in the shot put this season.
Curtiss is the fourth athlete from Tiffin to be named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season.
Senior | Distance
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Allie Ludge is making the most out of her senior year.
The senior from Grand Rapids, Michigan, placed herself among the best in NCAA Division II history for the second time this season – but this time it was in the mile.
Ludge placed third in the Championship Mile section at the Meyo Invitational, crossing the line in 4:39.34 for a new GVSU school record and the national lead. Her time slots her as the fifth best performer in NCAA DII history on an oversized track.
This is the second honor for Ludge this season, previously being named National Athlete of the Week on December 10. It also marks the third time a Laker has been a recipient this year.
Junior | Pole Vault
Noah Zastrow reached some rarefied air this past weekend.
It was at the Big Dawg Invitational where Zastrow, a junior from Spencer, Wisconsin, set an all-conditions PR of 5.26m (17-3) in the pole vault. This was just the second 17-foot clearance by Zastrow in his collegiate career and made him the 12th best performer in NCAA DIII indoor history.
What makes that clearance so special is that in the past three years, only three men at the NCAA DIII level topped 17 feet indoors. One of those men was Luke Winder of North Central (Ill.), who dominated the NCAA DIII ranks from 2015 to 2019 and won four indoor pole vault crowns in five years.
This is the second time in the past three years that an athlete from UW-Stout has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season. Zastrow joins former standout Sam Elsner from 2018 in that regard.
Senior | Combined Events
Laura Darcey is finding out that hard work does pay off.
The senior from Teddington, England, posted 3794 points in the pentathlon at the Windy City Rumble this past weekend to become the third best performer with the fourth best performance in NCAA DIII history. She made quick work of the competition as she posted the top marks in four of the five events (She finished runner-up in the long jump).
It was also a massive PR for Darcey, who waited nearly two years between them. Her previous PR of 3487 was set at the 2018 NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships where she finished sixth in the multi.
Not only that, but Darcey is also now ranked second nationally in the high jump, too, after winning the individual title in that event with a clearance of 1.74m (5-8½).
This is the first time that an athlete from UChicago has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season.
Freshman | Distance
Wesley Banguria keeps getting faster.
The freshman from Eldoret, Kenya, improved his 3000-meter best by eight seconds to take runner-up honors at the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational in 7:51.59, a time that strengthened his hold as the second fastest in NJCAA history. Only the record of 7:44.77, set in 1993 is faster on the all-time list.
This is the second National Athlete of the Week honor during the indoor season for Banguria, who was named as such on January 21. He also was named the NAOW four times during the cross country season.
Sophomore | Distance
Gladys Jemaiyo ran herself into the record books – again.
The sophomore from Kenya, running the 5000 at the Texas A&M-hosted Charlie Thomas Invitational on Friday, passed the 3000 split in 9:51.71 – more than two seconds faster than she ran there last year when she set her PR of 9:54.13. Only this year she still had 2000 meters to go, and after 10 more laps on the Texas A&M oval she finished in 16:38.42 to break her own NJCAA record by a staggering 13 seconds.
This is the third career National Athlete of the Week honor for Jemaiyo, who also received this distinction last year during the indoor season as well as in the 2018 cross country season.